InTouch – Acting Now for Future Generations

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I bet you have a lot to do today. Lots of things that need your attention right now.

But running a government responsibly is not just about helping people today. It means operating and making decisions so our successors are able to help them decades from now.

That’s the essence of the word sustainability. If the term seems squishy, here’s a common definition: using only enough resources for this generation so we leave enough for the next generation to meet their own needs.

Well, that could mean a lot of things. And it does.

For one, it’s the same concept that drives our fiscal discipline, which is all about setting up a spending plan that won’t leave us short down the road.

But we tend to more than dollars. Most often when we talk about sustainability, we’re referring to the environment and our use of natural resources. Those are areas where the County has been taking action in a variety of ways for some time, in many cases long before we began grouping them under the term sustainability.

In recent years, those efforts have taken on urgency as the consequences of climate change have become more apparent. The threat means we need to take an array of concrete steps to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Our strategy for rising to that challenge is our Climate Action Plan, passed by the Board of Supervisors last year. It lays out more than two dozen measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decade and beyond.

This week we release our Climate Action Plan’s first Annual Report showing the progress we’ve made toward hitting those goals. That’s a snapshot, but the work is, of course, ongoing. We’ve also just created a Climate Action Plan website that will continually show progress updates and help us share the details of what we’re doing with the public. I hope you’ll take a look yourself.

The Climate Action Plan, or CAP, builds on several programs and frameworks the County has adopted over time related to sustainable practices, such as the General Plan, the Multiple Species Conservation Plan, and plans to address energy use, waste reduction, food systems and hazard mitigation. Many of you have been involved with creating and implementing these various plans. 

These efforts can all be grouped into a few broad areas: our own buildings and operations, things we do for the unincorporated area we oversee, and practices we promote for the public and employees. Let me give a few examples.

For us, sustainability starts at home, so to speak. All new County buildings must be zero net energy, meaning they produce at least as much energy as they consume through solar or other renewable energy sources. Libraries we’ve built in Alpine, Imperial Beach and Borrego Springs the last few years are zero net energy and examples of our buildings of the future.  And new buildings must be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. We have 81 LEED buildings already, with 33 of those at the highest level – Platinum.

We have several projects in the works adding solar to County facilities that together may reduce our entire electricity demand by 20 percent. Around our buildings, we’re putting in more drought-tolerant landscaping – one of the ways we’re cutting how much water we use. We’re transitioning our fleet – the cars and trucks employees use – to cleaner fuels and technology, with 40 electric cars in service and more on the way.

In the community, we’ve made solar permitting for homes fast and simple, offering an online process. More than 38,000 homes in the County’s unincorporated area now have rooftop solar.

We have a CAP goal to plant 14,000 trees by next year and are nearly there already. We’re well beyond our goal of acquiring land for conservation, picking up 2,200 acres last year alone. We’re working with residents to update community plans in ways that reduce the need for driving.

And we help residents with steps they can take to cut greenhouse gas emissions. To keep waste out of landfills, we teach people how to compost, give businesses guides on reducing food waste, and provide recycling bins to schools and apartments.

As is often the case when I give examples of things we’re doing, I’m only scratching the surface.

There are all the things we can do as individuals to help as well. Cutting out car trips is a big one. Remember the County reimburses the cost of many transit passes. MTS Free Ride Day is coming up Oct. 2, so consider giving it a try.

Compost if you can. I bet that was a key for some of our colleagues who recently showed off their gardening skills.

Around the home or workplace, remember the basics: turn off lights when you’re not using them, and don’t let water run unnecessarily. It all adds up. You’ll find more ideas on the Take Climate Action section of the CAP website.

We’re also becoming increasingly aware of the public health risks linked to climate change. Hotter conditions and drought leave us more susceptible to wildfires and the smoke that can blanket the region, posing a danger to people with respiratory and other chronic conditions. Climate change means habitat change, so that the region becomes more hospitable to mosquitoes and other disease carriers.

Those relationships between public health and sustainability will be among the items on the agenda at next month’s Live Well Advance. The annual meeting brings together our partners who share the vision of a region that’s healthy, safe and thriving. I’ve tried to convey here how sustainability runs through many things we do. And it is woven into the Live Well San Diego vision that we all play a part in realizing.  

InTouch – Free and Fun, Thanks to the County

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Summer is here! Many County employees are taking days off, spending time with kids on break from school, hosting out of town guests, or simply enjoying all San Diego has to offer.

But keeping yourself and others entertained... well, the costs can add up. We know it’s a common concern because for the last few years, we’ve put a story called 31 Free Things to Do in July, or variations on that, on our County News Center, and it’s always one of the most popular pieces of the year.

We’ve brought it around again: a list of 100+ events and activities the County puts on at various venues. There really is something for everybody.

I thought I’d share a few things from this year’s list. One, because you’re like any members of the public, looking for fun and interesting things to do.

Two, I wanted to point out that this is one more example of the phenomenal variety of opportunities the County provides. This is a handful of activities from one month – a mere sliver of what we offer all over, all year round. Much of it is no cost, outside of modest parking fees in some cases. So, for starters:

We celebrate the Fourth of July in a few days. San Diego’s biggest fireworks show takes place over the bay, and one of the prime spots to watch is our Waterfront Park. For the more adventurous, that night the County is also hosting a combination of fireworks viewing and stargazing with a Star Party at Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve. 

Catch a performance of a Japanese storytelling tradition called kamishibai at the Lakeside Library on July 17 or the Vista Library July 18.

On July 18, you can picnic with goats at Los Penasquitos Ranch House. Wha-a-a-a-at? Yes, meet Nubian goats while learning about local ranch life in the 1800s.

Kids love stories. Kids love water. They can enjoy both at a Baby Splish Splash, an outdoor story time and water play activity at the Rancho Santa Fe Library July 10 and 24.

Time to get growing. Take Vegetable Gardening 101 at the La Mesa Library July 27, taught by a master gardener (that’s also a program the County sponsors).

The series goes well beyond July, but the month includes several showings from Summer Movies in the Park. We and local cities team up for this hugely popular event each year that hits every corner of the county. Families can enjoy entertainment for all ages, in beautiful outdoor settings, at no cost. 

How about a whole family-friendly expo with music and activities? That’s part of the County’s Live Well San Diego 5K and Kids 1-mile Fun Run, July 28 at the Waterfront Park. Don’t think you have to be a runner to come down and have a good time. I hope one way or another you’ll join this celebration that embodies our vision of a region that’s healthy, safe and thriving. 

If summer gives you a chance to take it easy, great, please enjoy it to the fullest. But all these activities – and again, this is just a tiny sample – should show you that for some of our County colleagues, this is a busy season. Each one of these takes multiple, many even, people to make it happen. I appreciate the hard work of everyone involved to offer San Diegans, our employees included, such a rich variety of opportunities for fun and growth. 

One other event this month to note: As part of Pride weekend in San Diego, we’ll be lighting the CAC in rainbow colors. On July 11, we’ll host a community celebration outside the building to kick it off. It will be a highly visible sign of our commitment to serving all our residents and providing a welcoming environment to all our employees.

Take a look at the Free Things article, and let that be a jumping off point to even more County events. Whether you’re taking advantage of what the County is offering, or busy helping offer it – and of course, you could be doing some of both – I wish you all a safe and enjoyable summer!

InTouch – Mapping Your Career Path at the County

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The County does an incredible variety of things. And it takes a pretty vast variety of job positions to get them done.

As you move through your professional life, you can find a lot of opportunities for growth and new challenges while remaining in the County. In fact, we really encourage it and want to help you get there. The County can be a career, not just a job.

I mentioned in the recent Who We Are profile of our workforce that about 2,000 employees were promoted last year. That’s 2,000 existing staff re-energized by taking on new responsibilities. And it’s 2,000 times we didn’t have to bring someone onboard from outside and get them up to speed on County culture and procedures. That works out for all of us. 

Where is a next stepping stone from where you are now? Or if you have your eyes set on a particular job, how do you get there?

There’s no single way to move from position to position. But there are some suggested career paths you can follow.

Our Human Resources department has laid out over two dozen of these paths. For clerical work, IT, law enforcement, social work and many more. They show what would be typical next steps up or lateral moves from a current position.

They’re a great tool, but again, those are suggested. They can be adapted, and we all wind up making our own ways. To give you some real world examples of what’s possible, we asked a few employees who have held multiple County jobs to share their paths with us.

Mavette Sadile, now with the County Technology Office, has quite a history here – especially for someone still on the early side of her career. Here’s her path:

Junior Clerk, HHSA -> Intermediate Clerk Typist, HHSA -> Payroll Clerk, HHSA -> Senior Payroll Clerk, HHSA -> ERP Specialist, HHSA -> ERP Analyst, Human Resources -> ERP Analyst, Auditor & Controller -> Departmental Technology Systems Specialist, Treasurer-Tax Collector -> IT Contract Manager, County Technology Office

“I had no idea how big the County was as an organization or the vast job opportunities it offered when I started working at the County 18 years ago,” Mavette said. “I was very fortunate to have had co-workers and supervisors along my journey who supported my professional goals, shared their lessons learned, and gave career advice and insights.”

Jiri Rutner is with the Health and Human Services Agency – again!

Human Services Specialist, HHSA Eligibility -> Administrative Analyst, Public Works -> Administrative Analyst II, Behavioral Health Services, first as Contract Analyst, then Program Analyst ->  Procurement Contracting Officer, Purchasing & Contracting -> Program Coordinator, Behavioral Health Services

“One of my favorite things about working for the County of San Diego is that things are often more complicated than they seem,” Jiri said. “Unintended consequences are an integral part of what we do, and for me that leads to an exciting and dynamic work environment.”

Nadia Moshirian Binderup recently started with the Sheriff’s Department. Here’s how she got there:

Intern, Board of Supervisors -> Legislative Aide, Board of Supervisors -> Policy Advisor, Office of Strategy and Intergovernmental Affairs ->  CAO Staff Officer, Community Services Group -> Community Relations Director, Sheriff’s Department

“My previous roles with the County provided me great insight on policy development and operations while understanding the significance of cross-functional threading – all while helping me get exposed to the ‘big picture’ of the County enterprise,” Nadia said. 

Thanks Nadia, Jiri and Mavette for sharing your stories. I think it’s helpful to see some actual cases and important to note the paths are not always along neat lines.

Whether it’s a mapped career path or one of your own, HR offers a lot of resources to help you move along it. Most positions take a number of “soft skills.” We provide regular trainings in areas like managing up, giving presentations, facilitating discussions, customer service and more.

There are also trainings focused on the hiring process itself. Resume writing. Interviewing techniques. Taking Civil Service exams.

For all these trainings, you can search the LMS or keep an eye out for the regular professional development emails sent to all employees.

Your annual performance review is an ideal time to sit down with your supervisor, discuss your development and goals, and together come up with a career path plan that makes sense for you.

Some of the most important advice I can give you is to seek out and talk to a variety of people. Ask employees in positions you want to be in how they got there. Get in touch with your department’s HR rep and go over possibilities. Ask managers and executives what they look for when moving people up. Our leaders welcome opportunities to provide their expertise and guidance to you. They like to see employees ready to step up. 

So do I. I think constantly about how we make sure the County as a whole keeps stretching itself. We’ll have a lot more success with that when employees are looking ahead at how they can improve and expand their contributions. I hope you’ll take advantage of the development opportunities we have, and I look forward to us all growing together.

InTouch - Who We Are

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It’s important to know our customers. And since we need to serve our fellow employees every bit as well as we do the public, we also need to know our colleagues. You know many individually. But as a group, who are we, what do we look like?

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Our County team is around 17,000 strong, and as you’d expect with that many people, we’re a varied bunch.

Sometimes it might seem like a lot of employees have been here a long time, and of course, many have. But the numbers show that’s not the whole story. Last year, 1,451 employees joined the County from the outside (welcome!). Everything is new to them – from their daily duties to understanding our culture.

Roughly another 2,000 existing employees were promoted (congratulations!). That’s almost 3,500 people in new positions. That’s a lot of learning, a lot of people who need help getting into their roles so they can be successful. 

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In fact, nearly 6,000 of us have been here under five years! If you’ve been around for a while and are ever tempted to think something is common knowledge, remind yourself how new many of our colleagues are. Help them along. If you’re new, don’t be afraid to ask about things. We know there’s a lot to pick up. 

A handful are really in it for the long haul. Fourteen employees have been here 40 years or more, with our longest-serving worker at 47 years!

Our workers range from 20 to 83 years old, with an average age of 44. The average for the national workforce is about 42. So we’re a touch older, but not much.  

You can expect some of the next generation to come from those who are now student workers. We had 391 last year. Our District Attorney’s Office had the highest number of any department: 93.

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We tilt pretty heavily female. Our workforce is 59 percent women, and it’s been that way for a while. County jobs don’t mirror those of society at large. We have a lot of positions in fields that tend to disproportionately draw women.

Our largest age group is 27-40 years old, approximately the range we know as millennials, aka Gen Y. They make up about 41 percent of our workforce. They’ve nosed ahead of the next group, those 41-56, roughly Gen Xers, who are just over 39 percent. Then Boomers, 57-73, still make up about 15 percent. The incoming Gen Z, people up to age 26, are already 5 percent. We still have a few Silent Generation members, 74 years old and up, on the job. We’ve talked pretty extensively about some of the differences, but it’s really exciting to get to work with people across five generations. We can learn so much from each other.

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Racial/ethnic identities can get quite complex, but at a high level, here’s how we break down and how that compares to the San Diego region at the last census: 0.6 percent American Indian/Native American (compared to 0.5 percent in San Diego overall). Nearly 19 percent Asian or Pacific Islander (vs. 12 percent locally). Almost 8 percent black/African American (to 4.6 percent of San Diegans). 32.6 percent Hispanic/Latino (vs. 28.3 percent of residents). And just over 40 percent are white (vs. 54.5 percent regionally).  

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Almost 2,000 of our County employees are sworn officers. That includes Sheriff’s personnel, Probation officers, District Attorney investigators.

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In recent years we’ve worked harder to get veterans of the armed forces to join us, and they now make up 6.6 percent of our employees. We thank them for their service and for continuing to serve the public with us.

That’s a quick snapshot of our employees as a whole and some indication of the diversity within our County team. But only some indication. We’re diverse in all kinds of ways we don’t gather statistics for: where we’re from, the culture our families shared with us, our beliefs, our challenges, our passions, and the whole gamut of life experiences. We fall into many different categories that make each of us unique and interesting. And when we bring our individual talents and backgrounds together, it makes exciting teams!

Looking at these numbers is fun but also has a purpose. I share them to help us better understand our fellow employees, so we might serve each other, and in turn the public, better. Because regardless of all these other groups we may be a part of, it’s the qualities we bring to our jobs that really define us at the County. Respectful, attentive, compassionate, hardworking public servants – that's who we are. 

InTouch – Happy New Era!

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Happy New Year!  Are you ready to roll?

I hope so, because this new year kicks off a new era at the County. On January 7, two new members will be sworn in to our Board of Supervisors. Welcoming two at one time is a first for me and all but the most veteran County employees. It’s been 24 years since two new board members were sworn in!

When I say a new era, I’m talking not only about the current board transition, but the practice of regular turnover in elected leadership since term limits are in place. The maximum time an elected official can serve as a supervisor is two terms. So our culture must adapt to continuous change.

New elected leadership means new policies and more dynamic shifts in priorities. Our successes of the past will be the foundation for the successes of the future. Old ways of doing things may be reviewed, tweaked or maybe even discarded.  And new ideas and initiatives will be implemented. 

Where we direct our energies might shift. But who we are won’t. We’ll remain dedicated to exceptional public service and the principles of HEART. We’ll demand the highest ethical standards. We’ll encourage innovation and continuous improvement in all areas of our operations.  We’ll be outcome driven and expect excellence in all that we do. 

Over the past several decades, we’ve never stood still, and we’ve shown great flexibility in responding to new demands. Now we’ll need to step it up and be even more nimble than we’ve ever been, as individuals and as an organization.

Our new supervisors and their staffs have an adjustment to make as well. Think back to the learning curve you faced when you got to the County. It’s a big, complex operation. All those acronyms! They’ll need our help in showing them how we function and how the fresh ideas they bring to the table can make their way into what we do.  

The familiar is comforting – but change is exciting. Invigorating, even. Embrace it! And as you do, reflect on some new year’s resolutions of your own. As I’ve talked to employees over the past couple weeks here are a few they’ve shared:

  • Solve problems, don’t just share them.

  • Be a positive force in our residents’ lives.

  • Listen more.

  • Appreciate and help co-workers.

  • Become more tech savvy.

  • Use social media to help, not to criticize.

  • Take a daily walk or run to enjoy the beauty of San Diego (exercise is a side benefit!).

  • Turn off the TV, set the phone aside and have a face-to-face conversation.

  • Smile more.

  • Relax – everything isn’t a crisis.

  • Make at least one unexpected good thing happen every day for someone.

As we close 2018, let me reiterate how grateful I am to each of you for your hard work and dedication this past year. Your commitment was extraordinary. Now, let’s ring in the new era together. We have many exciting achievements ahead. Let’s get going! 

InTouch – Look at What You’ve Done!

InTouch – Look at What You’ve Done!

Each of us stays so busy with the day-to-day demands of our own jobs that it can be hard to get a sense of how all our work adds up. And the County does such a vast variety of things, any one of us won’t be aware of much of what our colleagues are up to.

When you get a big picture look at a full year’s worth of accomplishments and services delivered, it’s pretty darn amazing.

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Walk the HEART Talk

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Hard to believe, but we’re coming up on four years since we started our Customer Experience Initiative and spread the message of serving with HEART. Since it was rolled out, I’ve been delighted at how fired up people get about it, making decorations, coming up with departmental recognition, sharing Positive Experiences and so on.

That’s great. That’s how we keep the HEART spirit alive. 

I want us to build on that enthusiasm and really see HEART seep into every aspect of what we do. This effort has always been about building a culture. Making exceptional customer service simply the County way of life. Ingrained in how we work, so deeply that as years go by and new employees come on board, they immediately sense the expectation, see our actions and follow suit.

We can memorize what HEART stands for (you can rattle off the five qualities, right? Here's a refresher). But are we living it day to day, person to person?

One thing we’ve stressed with HEART is taking a really broad view of who our customers are and what customer service is. Traditionally, the picture that comes to mind is helping someone who comes to one of our counters somewhere. Without a doubt, that’s still a big part of it. Service with a smile means a lot.

But that’s just the start. We’re there to make it as easy as possible for them to get through a process. We need to be applying HEART to every step. Being pleasant, patient and Respectful when interacting with customers. Dedicated and demonstrating Expertise in helping them toward success.  

If we need to send them to another division or department, how are we making sure the handoff goes smoothly? That they’re not dropped in transition or sent in circles? Did we follow up to confirm they got what they needed? Creating a positive customer experience means not just getting our particular task done but making sure customers reach their goal.  

This is the wider view of HEART. It goes beyond the personal attention to the customer to things like looking at processes themselves. It might be as simple as rewriting a set of instructions so they’re easier to understand or as big as revamping a case management system. To borrow a business term, HEART can scale.

And if we look at improving efficiencies, are we always considering whether a change is better for the customer, not just easier for us? Ideally, a process improvement does both, but not necessarily. This is especially important to keep in mind any time we take advantage of technology. It can do wondrous things, but its ultimate success has to be measured in customer satisfaction.   

For many of our customers, a website is their County experience. Is yours Helpful and Attentive to your customers’ needs? Does it put the things people want most often front and center? Is it written as plainly and simply as you would talk to people in person? Is it organized how customers might think, not according to our bureaucracy? Those of you who work on websites may never interact with the public, but you’re directly involved with delivering an exceptional experience.

As we challenge ourselves on living out HEART principles in all things, I ask that you always consider your fellow County employees as customers as well. An essential feature of the culture we’re building is that our co-workers deserve the full HEART treatment.   

No one here operates independently. We depend on a whole chain of people for anything we do. And each of us is a link in the chain of our colleagues’ work. It all links back to the public, so we’ll only be as good for them as our support is for each other.

Our internal rules and processes can be complicated, and just because someone is an employee doesn’t  mean they’ll automatically understand them. Show the same care and offer the same guidance with your co-workers as you would with the public.

Speak their language. Every line of work here has terms and acronyms that mean nothing to others. You’ll build inclusion when you avoid tossing out words that other employees are unlikely to understand.

And just communicate overall. Give people updates or heads up on things so they can plan accordingly. Be Timely in replying to mails or calls. If you’re slammed, at least acknowledge you got the message and will get to it.

Researchers have found a close link between internal customer service and how external customers see the quality of our services. Show your fellow employees HEART, and it makes its way back to the public.

HEART is a byword, but it also evokes the center: putting the customer experience at the heart of everything we do. Truly living HEART, in all ways, with all customers, is how we’ll get there.